Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Two Imamura's Coming from The Masters of Cinema in October

Previously releasing excellent editions of Vengeance is Mine (Fukushu suru wa ware ni ari) (1979), Profound Desires of the Gods (Kamigami no fukaki yokubo) (1968) and Pigs and Battleships (Buta no gunkan) (1962), The Masters of Cinema are coming out with two more by Shohei Imamura: Palme D'or winner The Ballad of Narayama (Narayama Bushiko) (1983) and A Man Vanishes (Ningen Johatsu) (1967).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Few Screenings of The Makioka Sisters (1983) in Los Angeles This Week

Janus Films is doing a limited run of Kon Ichikawa's The Makioka Sisters (Sesameyuki) (1983), which comes to Los Angeles this week on June 9th, 11th and 12th at both the Laemmle's Playhouse 7 in Pasadena and Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica, only on the 11th and 12th at Laemmle's Claremont 5 in Claremont and Laemmle's Town Center 5 in Encino and an other screening the following week on the 14th at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Hollywood (too many times to read Laemmle, no?). Not as wide as a release as last years House (Hausu) (1977) or Kuroneko (Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko) (1968), but it's getting a release at a few theaters equipped with digital projection, so this won't be a 35mm print of the film, but a pretty close digital approximation.

Film Music by Toru Takemitsu Vol. 2: Films Directed by Masahiro Shinoda

In preparation for my next few articles dedicated to the films of Masahiro Shinoda (which rejuvenated my interest in his films after Criterion's fantastic release of Pale Flower (Kawaita Hana) (1964) last month), I decided to do another music upload. This time it's the second volume of JVC's Takemitsu film score compilations with this one being devoted solely to his soundtracks for the films of Masahiro Shinoda.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tearing Down the Fourth Wall in Youth of the Beast (1963)

While preparing my next article, here's a nice leftover from my article on Joe Shishido. There's a quick moment in Seijun Suzuki's Youth of the Beast (Yaju no seishun) (1963) where Joe Shishido walks by a Nikkatsu movie theater (the studio that made the movie) with a large marquee featuring Nikkatsu stars Yujiro Ishihara, Hideaki Nitani, Izumi Ashikawa and even Shishido himself!

UPDATE: Re-blogging on this blog isn't exactly what I want to do, but this is too incredible to not share. The next day after posting this small paragraph of an article on Facebook, I was informed by my Facebook friend Chuck Stephens that there's even a bit more to the movie theater story in Youth of the Beast. In the film, the yakuza use the area behind the movie theater's screen as their hideout leading to some surreal images of films playing in the background while Joe Shishido wields a shotgun. Well, that is a whole story in itself. The projected film shown in the scenes background is the Nikkatsu film The Man They Tried to Kill (Kimi wa nerawareteiru) (1960) which led to a whole story of former American Cinematheque programmer, Dennis Bartok, and the appearance of his mom, avant-garde filmmaker LeAnn Bartok, in the film. The whole story is too incredible to believe and must be read:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tatsuya Nakadai in Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri (1962): Coming to Blu-Ray/DVD in September

Annouced via Masters of Cinema's Twitter, Masaki Kobayashi's anti-fuedalistic masterpiece, Harakiri (Seppuku) (1962), is getting a dual format release (Blu-Ray and DVD) in September. No specs have been announced yet, but for those not equipped with a region free player, this will surely be region B as the Japanese studios are notorious for always having their films always region locked.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

For the Ladies: Japanese Actors in Commercials Pt. 2

I'm not exactly focusing on actors this time per se, but now it's notable Japanese actresses that grabbed my attention. Finding commercials starring great actresses was a little trickier as they seem to be a bit more scarce, but what I could find was very interesting. Maybe the difficulty of finding commercials may be in part of the classic gender roles of what's expected of women that what's expected from men. In a country that for years was incredibly male dominated, even work in a commercial for a female may have been difficult.

Let me start this with my favorite of these commercials starring the beautiful Mariko Kaga (Pleasures of the Flesh (Etsuraku) (1965)) with her large, cartoon like eyes struggling to wake-up before goofily squeezing out White Lion toothpaste and brushing her teeth intensely. A little bit on the Richard Lester tip in humor and with the dental equivalent of A Hard Day's Night's (1964) collage shots of The Beatles:

(Uploaded onto YouTube by user Vintage50D)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gettin' Paid, Gettin' Paid: Japanese Actors in Commercials Pt. 1

It's not weird to see your favorite Hollywood actors pushing products on Japanese television (Lost in Translation (2003) had a whole plot point revolving around the idea). If you want to see any, do a search on YouTube and you can find several featuring actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nicholas Cage, John Travolta, Audrey Hepburn and even the great Orson Welles. As an example, here's a favorite of mine in a series of commercials for Suntory Whiskey where Peter Falk (A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Wings of Desire (1987)) plays a bartender:

(Uploaded onto YouTube by user callfromthepast3)

But Japanese actors pull in their own work too. It might not offer the room to stretch their acting chops and show off their abilities, but if it means a paycheck, then why not have some fun and do a few commercials?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Auteur(ists?) 8-Bit Conversion: Sweet Home (1989) for Cinemas and the NES

As long as video games have been around, there's always the guarantee that if a movie is marketable enough, then a video game version can't be far behind. In the United States alone there are dozens of games based on famous film franchises like Star Wars (1977) or the numerous characters Disney owns. Recently different developers have made video game adaptations of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972) and Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983), but usually it's incredibly rare to see an auteur's vision made into a video game. It's even more difficult to name cases in the early days of gaming when the scope of what was possible in a game was limited mostly because of the hardware limitations. But Sweet Home (Suite Homu) (1989) is one of the rare instances where a collaboration by two of Japan's most famous auteurs of the last thirty years, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Juzo Itami, resulted in a highly influential video game adaptation of the same film.

Sweet Home (Suite Homu) (1989) Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Sweet Home (Suite Homu) (1990) for the Famicom/NES - Dev. Capcom.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sion Sono's Love Exposure (2008): One Week Run in Los Angeles from May 13-19

Sion Sono's Love Exposure (Ai no mukidashi) (2008) is getting its first American run starting this Friday, May 13th, until Thursday May 19th at The Cinefamily. Each day (except Monday) will have a screening at 7:30 PM and a special early screening at 2:30 PM on Saturday.

I remember it played at The Cinefamily in November of 2009, but I always get reluctant of seeing a film that's more that three hours. Running at 237 minutes (!), the film seems to be over the map and takes a stab at family, religion, Japanese cinema and sex. Surprisingly, all accounts mention that the film manages to keep it all under control and ends up being a lot more entertaining than its art house origins may lead on. The Cinefamily is making a very big deal about the run and so I put my faith in them and hope their grand statements about the film isn't just pure hyperbole!

I'll definitely be going this week and plan on ordering two tickets for a screening. From Sion Sono, I've only seen Suicide Club (Jisatsu Sākuru) (2002) which left me lukewarm, but I'm very much interested Love Exposure which seems to be an awful lot of fun (plus anything with a Meiko Kaji reference will grab my attention!).

For those who don't live in Los Angeles, the always excellent Third Window Films released a region 2 DVD of Love Exposure early last year. Amazon UK is selling it brand new new for only £5.99 (about $11).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Everything is Fine: Tomorrow's Sun (1959)

Oshima's career started up with what looks like a candy-colored film of pure excitement. Young, attractive kids run across the frame in bright clothes, they sing and dance, fight with swords without an ounce or drop of blood letting and relax on the beach. There are no financial problems, no real violence, girls are always cute and relationships always work out. Even the title of Tomorrow's Sun (Asu no taiyo) (1959) builds up good feelings. Even when the sun goes out for the day, there's always tomorrow, right?

Tomorrow's Sun (Asu no taiyo) (1959) Dir. Nagisa Oshima

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sweet Temptation: Pleasures of the Flesh (1965)

Thanks to some easy Googling, I can pinpoint the exact date I saw Nagisa Oshima's Pleasures of the Flesh (Etsuraku) (1965). It was a April 24th, 2009 and including my friend, I must have been one of only fifteen people in the theater in the enormous Egyptian Theater. I had no clue what to expect aside from what I have read about Oshima and from the brief description of the film in the American Cinematheque calender. And what I read about Oshima was always the same thing: he's the Japanese Godard (which is a very inaccurate assessment).

When I stepped out of the theater after watching the double feature of this and Japanese Summer: Double Suicide (Muri-shinju: Nihon no natsu) (1967), I was surprised enormously by both pictures, particularly PotF. I tried to watch as much Oshima as I could and read every bit of text I could find on his films, but every where I read, PotF is treated as minor Oshima. David Desser in his book Eros Plus Massacre calls it "an interesting failure" while Maureen Turim's The Films of Nagisa Oshima rarely touches upon the film, even in context of his whole career. With what little I can find about the film or what others may say, it's become one of the films I consider an underrated masterpieces.

Pleasures of the Flesh (Etsuraku) (1965) Dir. Nagisa Oshima

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ace no Joe is Style!

There is something about the style of Japanese acting that still keeps it different and fresher than so many other cultures years later. The style can often be over-the-top and beyond real, but this isn't to say that the characters become caricatures. Especially in genre cinema, they often push the boundaries of what's emotion with sharp delivery, quickly changing moods and actions, imposing gestures and by having slightly self-conscious personas without ever being narcissistic or self-absorbed. Just see the performance of men like Bunta Sugawara, Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kei Sato, Tatsuya Fuji and you'll see a certain type of acting method that spills out over all sides of the frame.

In an era of post-Actor's Studio Hollywood where method acting existed for the idea of achieving higher realism and emotion from the scrip the actor was given often at the cost of their performances teetering on the border of become over-blown and pompous, the Japanese actors achieve reality with their comic book style. By being a film, it no longer belong to reality and people already assume their disbelief and extend to their imaginations what the director wants to show them. It seems to be a continuation of kyōgen or kabuki theater where style is used as a way to connect to the audience and understands that theater (and in this case cinema) is not real life.

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell, Bastards! (Tantei jimusho 2-3: Kutabare akutodomo) (1963) Dir. Seijun Suzuki

Friday, April 29, 2011

Nikkatsu Movie Music - Joe Shishido

Nikkatsu Eiga Ongakushu Star Series Joe Shishido

In 2008, Nikkatsu released compilation albums based either on their famous directors (Seijun Suzuki, Kon Ichikawa), actors (Yujiro Ishihara, Akira Kobayashi) or other themes (Nikkatsu New Akushon, Stray Cat Rock series) and I've been doing my best to get my hands on them, but I could just never find the one on Joe Shishido. While preparing my first real article for this site that's all about Mr. Joe Shishido, I finally did it and found the album. I had to do some deep scouring in the nether regions of the internet to find this album, but now it's mine to listen to anytime! It can be yours too!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why Blog? And Why About Japanese Cinema?

My recent downtrodden adventures to find a place of steady employment with decent pay in one of the worst economic seasons in decades has recently left me with a lot of free time. Instead of sulking while watching daytime television while eating pizza flavored Dorito's in a pair of underwear with rips and holes, I decided to start applying my free time to talking about something I'm passionate about: cinema!